'Honesty kiosk' concept could spread across UAE

Honesty kiosk has no employees to take money, instead trusting customers to pay SHARJAH // Roadside kiosks stocked with fresh fruit, vegetables and dates – and no staff to tally up purchases and take payment – could soon pop up around the Emirates. Customers can select produce from the unmanned store, calculate the price themselves […]

Honesty kiosk has no employees to take money, instead trusting customers to pay

SHARJAH // Roadside kiosks stocked with fresh fruit, vegetables and dates – and no staff to tally up purchases and take payment – could soon pop up around the Emirates.

Customers can select produce from the unmanned store, calculate the price themselves and drop the correct amount of cash into a box.

One such kiosk has been set up by an Emirati farmer in the emirate of Sharjah. Honesty is key to the success of the project, said farmer Abdullah Al Qaydi, who keeps the stall stocked each day.

The Emirati trusts people to pay for what they take and plans to open more in Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman and Dubai following the success of his first small roadside kiosk, just off the Maliha to Hatta motorway. Fresh aubergines, tomatoes, cucumbers, melons and pears are stacked up on wooden shelves alongside a sign that reads: “Kindly, it is self service.”

The produce is brought in each morning from Mr Al Qaydi’s farms in Maliha, RAK and Dhaid. Unsold produce is cleared away each evening in accordance with municipality hygiene rules.

“I want to show that the UAE is a secure country. I want to make these shops for all the world to see that we can trust all people,” he said. “When I discussed the idea with friends, they said I was ­crazy, that people would take my vegetables and just go. I thought, ‘it’s OK if people do that’. It is theirs to keep.

“But since we started at the beginning of the year, so many people came to buy and others showed their children the idea.”

The goods are labelled with prices while a calculator and notepad are left at the stall near the cash box so customers can add up their purchases and list what they have bought.

Maitha Khalifa, who drives from her Hatta home to a government job in Dubai, said: “There was always a crowd near the store, so one day I stopped my car when there were few people. I could not believe there was no one to check.

“Everything is very fresh, so I buy from there two or three times a week. I cannot believe no one steals. Does the owner really get money back?”

Mr Al Qaydi said people’s honesty was such that he has never fallen short by a single dirham when the cash is tallied up at the end of day.

Some customers requested that the stall be open for business by 6 or 7am instead of 8.30am. But because the produce is harvested daily, it takes time for the goods to be loaded and transported.

The Maliha stall is now shut because of the summer heat but will reopen in September with plans for additional kiosks in October. The new kiosks could be solar-powered to generate energy to run a small fridge and lights. Produce such as lettuce, broccoli, kale, okra and dates will be added when the shop reopens.

There are similar honesty stores in the UK, Switzerland and India where farmers sell eggs, honey, jams and other products from unattended barns and roadside stalls. Local crafts, such as pottery and carvings, are also on offer and unmanned fridges are stacked with snack options for breakfast and lunch.

While some shops are a resounding success, entrepreneurs have had to scale back owing to difficulty securing local council approval or problems finding a location.

In the UAE, Mr Al Qaydi’s idea has been met with support from the public and officials.

“It is an innovative idea, the first in the region, and its main objective is to send a message to the world that we live in a country of safety and security,” said Mosabeh Alketbi, director of Maliha municipality.

“Frankly, I did not expect a large turnout but it shows all ­segments of society appreciate the idea.”

rtalwar@thenational.ae

Source: uae news

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